There has been no such thing as a favorable opponent for the Minnesota Wild lately, but seeing the worst team in the NHL on the schedule as their first opponent of 2014 could have them feeling better about ending a franchise-record losing streak.
The Wild host the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night as they try to snap a stretch of six straight regulation losses in a matchup of two of the worst offensive teams in the league.
"It feels a little bit like Groundhog Day right now, the difference is that every game has been a different story," coach Mike Yeo told the league's official website. "Every game is different and you got to find a way to win. It's making a play here or there, it's whatever it takes. We've got to find a way."
The futile stretch for the Wild (20-17-5) continued Tuesday with a 2-1 home loss to St. Louis. Defenseman Ryan Suter scored with nine seconds left to avoid the shutout for Minnesota, which hasn't dropped seven in a row overall since an 0-5-2 slide Feb. 4-18, 2012.
"When things go bad, usually you have to hit the bottom before you can start going, and we're as close to the bottom as we can get," Suter said.
Suter has goals in consecutive games after going the first 40 this season without one, and he has a point in nine of 10. The team's only two wins in that time have come in shootouts.
"There were a lot of things that were much better tonight, but we're not in a position where we can feel good about those things," Yeo said. "We'll build off them, look at them, but there's still other things that we're not doing well enough to win hockey games."
Josh Harding made 21 saves and lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time this season.
The Sabres (11-25-4), meanwhile, have been shut out six times after Tuesday's 3-0 loss at Winnipeg.
"Get bodies in front, try and get sticks on pucks," forward Drew Stafford told the Sabres' official website. "We were close, but just not enough to get in so it's unfortunate. That's a tough one to take."
They're averaging a league-worst 1.65 goals while the Wild are right above them with 2.19 per game.
"We're the type of team that can't have any kind of turnover or mistake and get caught trying to fight back," interim coach Ted Nolan said. "Our offense, it's tough to score goals. It's just one of those things."
Though he had the night off against the Jets, Ryan Miller has kept the Sabres in games lately. He's won four of five starts and hasn't allowed over three goals in his last 12.
Buffalo heads to Minnesota short-handed. The Sabres lost forward Ville Leino to a lower-body injury Tuesday and defenseman Henrik Tallinder is expected to miss at least a week with an unspecified injury.
They also placed Cody Hodgson, who has already missed five games, on injured reserve Wednesday with a wrist injury and recalled forward Johan Larsson and defenseman Brayden McNabb from AHL Rochester.
The Wild won 2-1 at Buffalo on Oct. 14 behind Harding's 22 saves, but the NHL leader with a 1.65 goals-against average won't face the Sabres this time due to illness. Niklas Backstrom will start and the team recalled Darcy Kuemper from their AHL affiliate to back him up.
Backstrom has lost eight straight starts with a 3.53 GAA.
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